After former North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani was sent packing after a group of university presidents all but declared war on him he was given a cushy golden parachute package to go away.
In fact, Shirvani is still on the state’s payroll until June 30 2015. He was first relieved of his duty in July of 2014, but he’s been collecting his nearly $350,000 per year salary since then and has even received two pay raises and full health benefits.
“I’m writing with what some consider the eighth deadly sin, anger, at the North Dakota Higher Board of Education who hired Shirvani and agreed to pay him more than $1 million for a job left undone,” wrote Dickinson Press publisher Harvey Brock about the golden parachute deal.
“Not a bad deal for a guy who did nothing but irritate most everyone he worked with while proposing and trying to implement sweeping and unnecessary changes to the system in less than a year,” griped the Minot Daily News in an editorial.
“The North Dakota Board of Higher Education is going to have a tough time explaining the astonishingly generous severance package granted departing university system Chancellor Hamid Shirvani,” complained the Fargo Forum editorial board. “While it appears the board is bound by the chancellor’s contract, reaction among most North Dakotans will be, understandably, outrage.”
I was a Shirvani supporter, and I was sad to see him go because I think he had the right ideas for the university system, but it’s clear that severance package was excessive. So it’s not surprising that during the 2015 session lawmakers sought to limit these sort of sweetheart deals. Section 7 of HB1003, the university system budget, requires that the university folks follow the same law for severance packages that the rest of the state’s departments must follow (see 54-14-04.3 of the Century Code).
In other words, no more golden parachutes. Except, earlier this week Governor Jack Dalrymple vetoed the prohibition on golden parachutes writing in his constitutionally-required explanation to lawmakers that the language put “undue restrictions” on the university system.
This seems like faulty reasoning from Dalrymple. While the constitution may allow multi-year contracts, there’s nothing prohibiting the Legislature from prohibiting multi-year severance agreements.
Dalrymple has turned a blind eye to the problems in higher education again and again. This is the latest example.
On a related note, Dalrymple also vetoed section 24 of SB2015 which would have required that all of the university system’s vice chancellors resign and re-apply for their jobs upon the hiring of a new chancellor. This would ensure that any incoming chancellor would be able to hire his/her own staff.
Unfortunately Dalrymple saw this, too, as an unreasonable requirement for the university system. Here’s an excerpt from his veto letter:
That Dalrymple would see this section as serving “no constructive purpose” is laughable. Again, Hamid Shirvani was put in place by the State Board of Higher Education only to find himself undermined and doublecrossed by his own staff in the university system office. What’s more, a whistleblower has alleged some serious misdeeds by top university staff. While the efficacy of those accusations will be established, it’s pretty clear that the university system could use a house cleaning at the top from time to time.
That Dalrymple is vetoing statute which would have required said house cleanings is basically a defense of the status quo. And there ought to be nobody in their right mind defending the status quo in the North Dakota University System.